Who knew a symposium could be so intimate, deeply moving, and fun! ~ M.B. 

There are moments in life that are so vivid and meaningful that we long to preserve and revisit them over and over to harvest their layered riches. Such were the hours that almost 600 of us spent at the Radical Aliveness and Belonging Symposium, held on September 27, 2019 from 1 – 4:30pm at UMass Amherst.

Intended as a series of conversations to embody and uplift connection, contemplation, and consideration of the intersections of spirituality and social change, the event created a sacred space for love and wisdom to emerge. In the course of the afternoon, all of our esteemed presenters and guests were invited to experience key elements of grateful living: surprise, opportunity, and deepened trust in life. 

Panelist, Gregory C. Ellison II and Br. David embrace. Photo: Ben Barnhart

Little did I know that my time in UMass would be a pivot point in my life.  I am grateful to each of you for curating this most special moment.  ~ G. E.

The afternoon featured accomplished, contemporary scholars, who are also spiritually-inspired activists and leaders, to engage the symposium theme in its many facets. Speakers joining Br. David Steindl-Rast included:

Rachel Bagby calls the gathering. Photo: Ben Barnhart

Local artist Tony Silva infused the afternoon with the aliveness of music, playing instrumental guitar before the start of the event and during intermission. Discover Tony’s soul-stirring music here.


Panelists hug before the intermission. Photo: Ben Barnhart

From your vision and beautiful orchestration, to the joy of reuniting with long-time and new kindred spirits, to the inquiry that you engaged us in from the git-go, Brother David, to the honor of being a love-summoning instrument, to each penetrating, playful and insightful engagement on the stage, blessings upon blessings. I’m deeply grateful. ~ R. B.

Snippets of wisdom shared at the symposium. A full recording of the event will be released this winter.

The Radical Aliveness and Belonging Symposium was co-sponsored by A Network for Grateful Living and Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries

We offer our deep gratitude to all those who made this event possible. We hope that the energy and inspiration of the gathering carries forward in ongoing conversation and exploration of ways we might all positively impact the world by showing up as our most awake, engaged, alive, connected selves. 

I came away from the symposium so full of inspiration, hope and (yes) encouragement for the direction of our world. ~ J.C.


The symposium included a slideshow featuring inspirational quotes on spirituality and social change accompanied by stunning photography. We invite you to enjoy and share the slideshow

The quotes in the symposium slideshow are from our Word the Day collection, which offers a daily curated quote 365 days/year. If you would like to receive an inspirational Word for the Day quote each day, a poem each month, or learn about upcoming events and featured content every couple of weeks, please subscribe here.


Lastly, please share any reflections from the event below. We look forward to continuing the conversation.